|Location(s)||Birmingham, Alabama, US|
|Years active||1989 - 2009|
|Founded by||George McMillian|
|Genre||R&B, Folk, Indie rock, Jam bands, Americana, Bluegrass, Country, Gospel, Alternative rock, Hip hop, Reggae, Jazz, Metal|
City Stages was a three-day, family-friendly, arts and music festival in downtown Birmingham, Alabama that took place in and around Linn Park from 1989 to 2009. City Stages featured 150 to 200 acts from hip hop to country on 9 to 11 stages. Many of the world's renowned performers and musicians made appearances at City Stages during the festival's 20-year history. After losses in 2009 amounted to nearly half a million dollars, the organization running City Stages announced on June 25, 2009 that the event would not return the next year.
City Stages was started in 1989 by former Alabama Lieutenant Governor George McMillan and a group of civic leaders who wanted to start a downtown music festival that would promote Birmingham's City Center as part of that year's Alabama Reunion. By all accounts those goals were met, as the festival's early success is credited with reestablishing the downtown area as a vibrant and pleasant district. In the years since City Stages began, several other festivals have been launched downtown. McMillan's firm, McMillan Associates managed and promoted the festival.
City Stages grew rapidly in its first five years from a small regional festival to a world-renowned music event. At its peak, the festival featured 13 stages and performance areas over a 13 block area.
In 2001, organizers of the festival moved the festival to May to have more flexibility in booking acts that normally have their own summer tour plans. Unfortunately, rainstorms drowned out the failed three-year experiment, and the festival racked up nearly a half million dollars in debt. The organizers have since moved the festival back to Father's Day weekend, the third weekend of June, and scaled down the number of acts, focusing on bigger-name headliners. 2004's festival was a success, allowing the organizers to retire some of its debt. As of February 2005, City Stages signed the Vines & Waldrep law firm as the festival's first title sponsor, changing the official name to Vines & Waldrep City Stages. However in 2006, the name changed again to "Waldrep Stewart & Kendricks, LLC City Stages Presented by Lanny Vines & Associates, LLC".
City Stages' organizers announced in November 2007 that they hired AC Entertainment, one of the co-producers for the successful Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, to help produce the Birmingham festival and will advise them for the next three years.
The partnership was to help aid the festival of eliminating a debt of $230,000 and to bring bigger acts - many who had forged relationships with Bonnaroo organizers - to the annual event. (Both Bonnaroo and City Stages were held on the same weekend.)
The final City Stages was held on June 13–15, 2009 on Father's Day Weekend. Tickets sales were hampered by inclement weather, the struggling economy, and a poor lineup. Many speculate McMillan purposely put on a sub-par festival that year to declare bankruptcy and seek protection from creditors. After the event, organizers announced that the total debt had surpassed $1 million, and that no further City Stages would be produced.
The Junior Board and City Stages Battle of the Bands
During the last few years of City Stages, a group of volunteers organized the City Stages Battles of the Bands. These volunteers were selected as candidates and chosen by Betsy Henle. The chosen were mostly articulate young adults in high school around the Birmingham area and a few unique and talented UAB students. They were named the Junior Board, in relation to the Associates Board and Directors Board. They had the privilege to observe City Stages official meetings, held on the last Thursday of every month from Octobers until the month leading up to the main event.
- Colruso, Mary; Joseph D. Bryant (2009-06-26). "$1 million-plus debt ends Birmingham music festival City Stages after 21 years". The Birmingham News.
- "Bonnaroo firm hired to boost Birmingham festival". USA Today. November 18, 2007. Retrieved April 30, 2010.